Notes LONDON, 2 July 1947
SECRET-AND NOT FOR PUBLICATION
NOTES OF DISCUSSION IN THE HOUSE OF LORDS (OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR DOMINION AFFAIRS) ON THE 1ST JULY, 1947
Present: Viscount Addison-Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, The Hon. Alfred Barnes-Minister for Transport, The Hon. Arthur A. Calwell-Minister for Immigration, Mr. N.W. Lamidey-Chief Migration Officer.
Mr. Calwell outlined the viewpoint of the Australian Government in relation to migration and stated emphatically that migration had to be taken into the realms of high political endeavour. He emphasised that it was a question not only of the protection of Australia from future Japanese or other Asiatic aggression but that it was a mass movement of British people for British interests.
Mr. Calwell added that the stage had now been reached when we had 1,200,000,000 Asiatics within 24 hours' flying time of Australia and that the survival of Australia and Great Britain would depend to a large extent upon the success which attended their efforts in securing the maximum number of people available to build up economically and defensively, the Australian Continent.
Viscount Addison in reply, assured Mr. Calwell the United Kingdom Government were fully seized with the dangers to which he had given voice and said that he need have no hesitation in believing that the United Kingdom Government were behind the immigration plan. They would do all that they could to assist and so long as he was here, Mr. Calwell was welcome at any time to come again and put his viewpoint and press for anything that he thought would be beneficial to the development of their mutual understandings.
As the discussion proceeded the difficulties from the British and the Australian side came into greater relief. Mr. Barnes pointed out that one of the great disadvantages at the present time was the serious wastage of shipping at ports. He admitted that this was a general epidemic at the moment all over the world but that it had assumed large proportions in Australia. He emphasised the fact that unless there was a quick turnround at Australian ports, the costs would mount and there would be considerable delay in getting migrants across to the other side of the world.
Mr. Calwell undertook to do what he could to rationalise this and to bring it home forcibly to the Australian Authorities.
Mr. Barnes stated that in connection with the number of ships that had been allocated to Australia, he felt bound to say that the Australian Representatives had got all they could get and that their planning must take into account the requirements and needs not only of other Dominions, but of their interests throughout the world. He promised however that he would be perfectly willing to discuss this matter later with Mr. Calwell and to have his experts by his side so that the whole matter could be thrashed out in an endeavour to assist Mr. Calwell. He reiterated his promise which he had already made to the High Commissioner previously, that should time and circumstance permit, they would willingly place additional ships at our disposal if it were possible to do so. The matter was constantly under review and Australia's case and interests were never lost sight of.
Mr. Barnes also pointed out that in order to assist generally, a Committee had been set up to submit recommendations for long-range planning estimated on a ten-year basis. He emphasised at this point that whatever this Committee may recommend, it would be well to bear in mind that the Yards of Great Britain at the present time were occupied in essential building for the next two years.
He agreed with Mr. Calwell that the maritime supremacy of Great Britain was one of the most important things to which the Governments must give their attention and he suggested that Great Britain must use the capacity of their shipyards to recover their position. He stated they did not fear competition from the U.S.A.
or any other nation because they knew their shipyards were the best in the world and the best equipped, and he felt that if the Dominions would co-operate with them in building to a British programme, much could be achieved in developing such supremacy which, in turn, would do much to strengthen the props for their ultimate recovery.
Mr. Calwell then said he would like to have a definite assurance from Viscount Addison, as representing the United Kingdom, as to whether Australia could accept as a fact that there would be no limitation on the number of migrants to go to Australia and that the U.K. Authorities will let those go who wish to go.
Viscount Addison, in reply, said that they could not say what manpower they would require but notwithstanding any shortages, with a right policy on a successfully guaranteed migration scheme, they would raise no objection to any persons going to Australia.
They would be prepared to let go as many as possible but be asked that we would take a fair cross-section of the community and that there might be difficulties if we wanted to take out a large proportion of any particular trade or calling. So long as we worked in co-operation with the Labour & National Service Authorities and had a proper appreciation of their manpower difficulties, he could say that there would be no restrictions placed on anyone wishing to migrate to the Dominion.
Mr. Calwell then emphasised the psychological effect of the AQUITANIA being made available for two trips to Australia and asked whether reconsideration of the plans could be undertaken so that they may have a chance of utilising this boat in this way.
Mr. Barnes, in reply, stated that he could not discharge his minimum obligations to all the Dominions unless all ships were used on the routes for which they were most suited. The North Atlantic run was obviously the place for a big boat of this sort and on the advice of his experts the consumption costs and general overall picture was so costly that they would really have to ask Australia to meet such costs if it were at all possible to make this boat available.
He stressed the fact, however, that at the present time they could not go beyond the present overall picture which took into account the needs of other Dominions and the United Kingdom commitments.
Mr. Calwell then asked whether, in view of the loss of the AQUITANIA, we could still not get an additional couple of ships.
Mr. Barnes in reply stated that he doubted whether any other ship could be made available but he willingly undertook to meet Mr.
Calwell later and, with his experts, to discuss the matter at greater length.
Mr Calwell referred to the letter from the Dominions Secretary of the 1st July regarding the ASTURIAS and suggested that the British Government might amend the last sentence which seemed to suggest that the Australian Government would be required to carry the whole of the cost of the excess over 70. Mr. Calwell thought that the Australian Government might meet probably two-thirds of this cost but felt that the U.K. Government should bear some proportion of the extra cost involved.
Viscount Addison promised to give the matter further consideration on receipt of a communication from the Minister on this point.